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Real Pro Climber Wives Of Boulder County

Author: Madaleine Sorkin

August 13, 2013

While climbing didn’t make it to the Olympics again this year, climbing could become a spectator sport like a mainstream sporting event. Climbing athletes are finding endorsement by more and more big-money brands. (Welcome Adidas, the newest big kid on the block.) And major news sources feature our athletes’ accomplishments, and even lifestyles, from Alex Honnold on 60 Minutes to Sasha DiGuilian in Seventeen Magazine.

The Real Pro Climber Wives of Boulder County* is intended as a campy depiction of the image our sport could foster in the mainstream media. While the RPCWBC might clearly provoke a plethora of discussion topics, ranging from the profound (how can we best represent our diverse community?) to the mundane (what’s in your secret recovery drink?), today I want to talk about cheerleading. While gym competitions offer a way for fans and loved ones to easily access the sport and applaud our athletes, it’s less obvious how the spectator can participate in the successes/failures/toils of an outdoor climber.  

The featured Pro Climber Wife (PCW) of course does it ALL: she shows up at the crag bikini-clad and post-(insert “real” profession here)-work day to belay, cheer and feed her pro homemade, nutrient dense treats. She tweets, blogs, FB posts, etc. on behalf of her disorganized pro’s recent achievements. She color codes your gear, charms the sponsors, ices your forearms, and stokes the home fires during long expeditions. If only every climber could be so lucky.

*not really a new reality TV series

Madaleine Sorkin

At 15, Madaleine Sorkin was guided up her first multi-pitch climb, the Prow, on a Colorado 14er. It was the range of experiences from the butterflies in her stomach the night before, to seeing daybreak in an undisturbed landscape, to exploring a small spire and naming it Macaroni and Cheese, to the sublime exhaustion by the end of the day that drew Madaleine into the art of climbing. Approaching her 30th birthday, Madaleine began to practice a single mantra: Own It. She ruthlessly applied this mantra to big wall free climbing, and it made 2012 a banner year for the insatiable athlete. She teamed with young guns (including fellow ambassador Nik Berry) and enjoyed career-highs in both the Black Canyon (Hallucinogen Wall VI 5.13 R) and Yosemite National Park (El Corazon VI 5.13, El Capitan). In September, Nik and Madaleine took their big wall free climbing kit to the Ak-Su valley of Kyrgyzstan. The duo’s enthusiasm for adventure—and at times cavalier attitude—was met with massive climbs, dysentery, open bivvys, an unplanned home-stay with a generous Kyrgyz shepherd family, sheep killing and general arguments about helmet wearing. Sorkin says she returned home ready for bedtime stories with a glass of warm milk. Looking back at any achievement, Sorkin notes how attainable a goal becomes once able to understand how to work with the doubts and other emotions that arise while staying committed the climb. At the heart of her climbing is an investigative interest into the partnerships, motivations, struggle and humor that make the pursuit meaningful.